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Poland’s decent pedigree in the World Cup, where they finished third in 1974 and 1982, wasn’t matched in the European Championship where they failed to qualify until 2008. They co-hosted in 2012 with Ukraine but failed to make it out of the group stages.
They’ve been a mixed bag in tournaments since. Poland endured a terrible World Cup in Russia, mathematically eliminated after losing the first two games despite been ranked eighth in the world beforehand. However, they made it to the quarter-finals at Euro 2016 where they lost on penalties to eventual champions Portugal. The ambition will be to go one better this time.
Slovakia — Saint Petersburg, Russia: Monday, June 14, 5pm
Spain – Seville, Spain: Saturday, June 19, 8pm
Sweden – St Petersburg, Russia: Wednesday, June 23, 5pm
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Finishing top and registering eight wins and one draw makes it sound straightforward, however, the single defeat away to Slovenia did put some pressure on and heading into the last two rounds of fixtures qualification was still not secured.
Over the ten games, scoring 18 and only conceding five tells its own story, and explains why they changed to a more attacking manager back in January.
Paulo Sousa. Jerzy Brzecek had been in charge since July 2018 and had extended his contract in November, only to be given the boot a few months later. Sousa had an excellent playing career, finishing third at Euro 2000 with Portugal and winning back-to-back Champions League titles with Juventus & Dortmund in the ‘90s. His time in management has been patchy. After short stints at QPR and he led Maccabi Tel Aviv and Basel to league success but this is his first job in charge a national team.
Polish FA President Zbigniew Boniek – a national hero and considered one of the greatest Polish players of all time after bagging 24 goals in 80 caps, playing at three consecutive World Cups and helping Poland to third place in 1982 – made the managerial change. The feeling was Poland wanted to play a more front-foot style.
The expectation is three at the back and two strikers up top. Piotr Zielinski will be key. He’s had criticism for his national team displays, and will need to show the quality on display at Napoli each week. Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny have been battling for the gloves, and it looks like the Juventus man is going win the battle of the ex-Arsenal goalies to be No.1.
Robert Lewandowski. Voted the best player in the world by both FIFA and UEFA in 2020, he’s won everything on the club scene. At 32, now is the time for him to finally deliver on at a major summer tournament. His record so far is poor, with only two goals in 11 appearances at Euro 2012 & 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.
ONE TO WATCH
Arkadiusz Milik. The 27-year-old has 15 goals in 59 games for national team. After falling out with Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis and deciding not to renew his contract, Milik was excluded from Napoli’s official squad this season. He managed to get a loan to Marseille in January so he would be in shape for the summer and 10 goals in 16 games suggest he will be ready to contribute to the Polish cause.
Here’s all the key data on Poland’s squad.
- Squads and statistics correct at time of data sheet creation.
They will be disappointed if they do not go beyond the quarter-finals and once in the semis they can beat anyone. Potential winners, but after disappointing at recent major tournaments, a semi-final appearance would be considered a solid tournament.
Poland could struggle to score many goals against Spain, Sweden and Slovakia. Lewandowski will be too short for this market and therefore the value lies in his experienced strike partner.
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